Theory and Methods of Human Geography

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What kind of human geographer do you want to be? Justify by discussing the types of theoretical and social problem that you think are most relevant to the discipline today? Economic Geography has always been an integral part of human geography. ‘Economic geography is usually regarded as a subfield of the discipline of geography, although recently economists such as Paul Krugman and Jeffrey Sachs have pursued interests that can be considered part of economic geography’ (Clark et al, 2002). Economic geography mainly represents two subfields which are closely associated to each other but they also have some major differences. Economic geography is first referred to as geographers who are working on spatial questions, with a synthetic approach from sociology, economics, political science, and history. Secondly, it is related to regional science with economists working on spatial models. In more recent years, economic geography has taken a step toward critiques of the Marxist social and economic theory. This paper aims to investigate these theories and identify the types of theoretical and social problems that can occur within the discipline of economic geography, an area of particular interest to me. ‘The main trouble with theory is that people will insist on making such a song and dance about it, but…. the intention of theory is to make thinking easier, not more difficult.’ (Shurmer-Smith, 2002). Theory is a fundamental part of any research and allows the researcher to construct the basis of their work. Theory is required to make a sense of things no matter what discipline is being researched; theological models can be used and then linked with research in order to create a better understanding into the way things work. The way research is conducted and the questions that are asked during research are all based on the theory behind that subject. Historically human geography has always been influenced by changes in all aspects of the social sciences. It began as a very descriptive and ideographic discipline, but over time has gradually moved towards a more positivist methodology. There have been many changes in the ways we perceive geography over the last sixty years and now geographers encounter a large range of methodologies and practices that are linked to complex theories and philosophies. Economic geography historically dates back to the times of European exploration, with an expansion in commercial geography from the mid-15th century. Knowledge of economic geography was first essentially descriptive, with a focus on the region and its economy, demography, and social characteristics. A writer named George Chisholm wrote a paper called the ‘Handbook of Commercial Geography’ (1889); this was considered to be the first publication solely exploring the link between geography and economics. In the late 19th century, more economic geographers started to take into consideration the impact physical environments had on economic activity throughout the world. In the 1950s economical geography had a dual focus on regional synthesis; the construction of integrated descriptive accounts of specific regions and areas and also regional differentiation. Economic geography became predominately positivistic, and was based on quantitative procedures and neoclassical economic principle. This was combined with the locational analysis of earlier theorists, which provided the dominant basis for the study of spatial organisation within the modern economy. During this period economic geography was basically just ‘industrial geography’ and it wasn’t until the later 1960s that geographers started to search for systematic locational patterns within the economic landscape. This was triggered by the discovery of earlier location-theoretic models in combination with a view to make geography a spatial science. Some of these models included the Von Thünen (1826), Weber (1929) and Christaller (1933). During the mid-1970s economic geographers shifted from...
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